70% of Top Sales Managers Assess This Skill in Sales Candidates

Effectively gauging the skill set of salespeople is an absolute must when recruiting, as well as when analyzing the performance of existing reps. This is what allows you to assemble an A+ team, get the most from your leads, and inevitably maximize revenue. 

But with so many different factors, what exactly do you focus on?

While there are several skills recruiters analyze, there’s one that outshines all others at the top of the list.

The Ability to Close

Allego, a digital learning and enablement platform that focuses largely on sales training, performed in-depth research in a resource called The Ultimate Guide to Assessing Sales Rep Competency. In it, they examined the current state, as well as the future of sales competency. 

This resource contains a ton of great information, including ramp times by industry, sales training approaches commonly used, and which specific skills determine sales competency. But one piece of data I found particularly interesting was where Allego identified the top eight sales skills managers assess in their reps. 

“We looked at the eight key aspects of sales competency, including sales planning, prospecting, qualifying pipeline, pitching to prospects, negotiating contracts, closing deals, managing customers, and retaining customers,” they write. Of those eight skills, the number one that sales managers assess the most across the board is the ability to close at 70%.

And that’s not surprising. While other sales skills like prospecting new opportunities, making pitches, and negotiating are tremendously important, they pale in comparison to actually closing deals. In fact, you could ask, “What good does it do if a salesperson crushes every other aspect of the sales process but can’t seal the deal?”

The fact that 7 out of 10 managers assess the ability to close makes it the ultimate “bottom line metric” and the primary factor to consider when recruiting new reps, as well as analyzing the performance of current team members. 

This begs the question. 

How Should You Handle Underperforming Reps?

We now know that the ability to close is what you should look at most closely when recruiting new reps. Therefore, you’ll want to ask relevant questions during the interview stage, such as, “What was your close rate at your previous company?”

But what should you do with current reps that struggle closing deals and fail to hit their quota?

That’s another topic Allego examined in their research. According to their findings, the top three actions sales managers take to handle competency gaps are:

  • Implementing performance improvements plans – 50%
  • Increasing focus from management – 31%
  • Increasing training – 15%

Allego summarizes it perfectly with this quote. 

By these numbers, it’s clear that top sales managers take initiatives to put concrete performance improvement plans in place, have leaders place a bigger focus on helping reps improve, and generally offer a higher level of training. 

Note that a very small percentage of sales managers fire reps at just 3%. Therefore, we can surmise that simply letting underperforming reps go isn’t usually the best solution, and successful companies opt for investing in their people. 

Practical Tips to Help Reps Close More Deals

For the final part of this post, I’d like to share with you a few key strategies that are highly effective for helping salespeople increase their close rate. 

One is to create a resource that’s designed specifically for overcoming sales objections. The purpose is to 1) identify common sales objections and 2) show reps how to respond in each situation. That way they can react instantly and efficiently disarm the situation using “muscle memory.”

HubSpot wrote an amazing post about the 40 top sales objections, with the top five being:

  1. It’s too expensive.
  2. There’s no money.
  3. We don’t have any budget left.
  4. I need to use this budget somewhere else.
  5. I don’t want to get stuck in a contract.

They also include rebuttals for each. I suggest reading over that post and using it to create a customized resource for your team members. That alone can be a huge help. 

Next, work on ironing out any kinks in the lead handoff process from marketing to sales. As Allego pointed out earlier, 31% of sales managers increase their focus from management when reps aren’t closing as much as they should. It’s all hands on deck, and your whole team should work on moving marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs) with the least friction possible. 

This may include:

  • Using lead scoring to quantitatively rank leads so marketing knows the perfect time to hand them off
  • Ensure marketing passes along notes to sales mentioning key information (e.g. a lead’s pain points or current software)
  • Using meeting scheduling platform to strike while the iron is hot

For more on improving the MQL to SQL handoff, check out this article from Chili Piper

Finally, provide ongoing support for your salespeople. I recently wrote a post that talked about looking past a rep’s initial development and equipping them with the tools to continually improve and stay engaged. And I can’t stress enough how important this is, especially when your reps are in a slump. 

Not only can continual training help underperforming reps get back on track, it creates a framework for perpetual refinement that helps them operate at their absolute best. 

Here are some ideas:

Assessing Reps on the Most Important Skill

A big part of successfully recruiting potential new salespeople and analyzing the performance of your current ones is knowing what specific skills to assess. While there are several that are important, the ability to close is the most important of all based on data. So, keep this in mind moving forward and use this as your bottom line metric. 

Looking for a surefire way to recruit top tier reps? Learn how HireDNA can help you find the best of the best in your industry and eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes. 

Use This Tool to Accelerate New SaaS Salesperson Ramp Time By 20-50%

I talk about SaaS sales rep onboarding a lot for one simple reason. It’s insanely important. 

Research has found that effective onboarding can increase your win rate by 15% and quota achievement by 14%. Further, leading SaaS companies with A+ onboarding practices experience 39% higher employee engagement, which not only translates into much better performance but a dramatically lower turnover rate. 

But there’s a problem.

Most SaaS Companies Have a Sluggish Ramp Time

One aspect of SaaS onboarding where many companies struggle is with speed. According to data involving 384 SaaS companies, ramp time takes an average of 4.5 months. However, that time is even longer for nearly 20% of companies, where it takes longer than seven months to get their salespeople completely dialed in. 

So, while reps are still learning the ropes, they’re not hitting their full potential, and deals are likely being lost. Fortunately, there’s a tool that can help you accelerate new SaaS salesperson ramp time by 20-50%. Here it is. 

Use Cutting-Edge Sales Onboarding Software

Like nearly every aspect of sales, there’s software available that’s specifically geared toward SaaS salesperson onboarding. Simply put, “sales onboarding software is a tool that helps sales managers onboard team members smoothly, develop courses and programs to train sales reps, and build their product knowledge.” 

By adding it to the mix, you can establish an extremely efficient process and structure that turns even the greenest salesperson into one that knows the ins and outs of your products and can confidently close deals. 

Common Features You’ll Find in Sales Onboarding Software

For starters, these platforms offer real-time access to interactive, personalized learning content. You can, for example, create learning videos, product demo examples, and quizzes that new hires can access 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

Whether they’re working in-house from your office or remotely on the other side of the planet, salespeople can get up-to-speed quickly, soaking up information in a structured, uniform way. 

Most platforms also offer guided selling systems that teach new salespeople how to close more deals faster, along with tips and tricks to maximize their potential. Saleshood is a sales onboarding software that includes sales playbooks, presentations, knowledge sharing, and win stories that show new reps firsthand how to thrive within your company and rapidly evolve their skills. 

And just like learning hubs, guided selling systems can be fully customized and modified over time to evolve along with your salesforce. 

Role-playing practices are another critical part of sales onboarding software and give new reps a framework for practicing their skills for calls, demos, and negotiations. This is huge for helping salespeople feel more comfortable and confident once they’re actually in the thick of things, and they should be ready for whatever is thrown at them. To quantify, reps that properly practice these skills increase their sales by more than 75%, says sales onboarding platform, Lessonly

Finally, you’ll usually find some type of analytics built into this type of software. Sales enablement and readiness platform, Brainshark, for instance, allows you to gauge the effectiveness of your training program as reps enter the field. With their software, you can “visualize the impact of training programs by tracking course data alongside sales KPIs.”

This is super helpful because it offers objective insights on which specific elements of your onboarding program are working well and which need to be tweaked. So, over time, you can get it down to a science.

Offer Ongoing Reinforcement

In an ideal world, you would give new SaaS reps initial training, and they’d be off to the races never needing a second of further instruction. But it just doesn’t work that way. 

“Research shows that most new reps get overwhelmed with information in the first 30 days, and they can forget as much as 80% of sales boot camp training if they do not receive ongoing reinforcement.” That’s why it’s critical to provide ongoing reinforcement until a new salesperson is firmly rooted and firing on all cylinders. 

Fortunately, most sales onboarding software offers continuous learning where salespeople receive consistent updates and assessments to ensure they retain the information and keep evolving. MindTickle is a good example and places a heavy emphasis on reinforced sales skills so the knowledge reps gain sticks. 

Also, note that some platforms feature additional learning, such as micro courses and certifications that are designed to take salespeople from being good to great. So, when you have a new rep that quickly works their way up the ranks and shows a lot of promise, you can help them elevate their skill set even more through this type of training. 

I’ve featured a handful of different sales onboarding software in this post, but for a full rundown, comparison, and information on pricing, I suggest reading this resource from G2

Reducing Your Ramp Time By as Much as Half

There’s no denying how vital proper onboarding is to the success of new SaaS sales reps. Research has found that it significantly increases win rate, boosts quota achievement, creates higher employee engagement, and lowers turnover. The problem, however, is that many SaaS companies are inefficient at the process.

But this is something that can easily be remedied through sales onboarding software. In fact, brands that use it are able to accelerate new SaaS salesperson ramp time by 20-50% on average. That combined with ongoing reinforcement is incredibly potent and can help you get the absolute most from your sales team. 

Speaking of sales teams, are you looking to hire top-tier sales talent, faster? See how HireDNA can help you find the best of the best in your industry using intelligent matching and science-based assessments.

6 Red Flags to Look Out for When Screening Sales Reps

Screening sales reps isn’t easy, and 74% of SaaS companies have said they’ve made a wrong hire at some point. While there’s no magic bullet that ensures you’ll pick the right sales rep every single time, there are some concrete steps you can take to get close. 

One of those is simply knowing which red flags to look out for when screening reps. Here are six of the biggest according to experts. 

1. They Blank When You Ask Company Research-Related Questions

Let’s start from the top. Any candidate worth your attention will take the time to thoroughly research your company. And I’m not talking about the basics on your homepage or LinkedIn profile. A quality salesperson will make the effort to learn about your:

  • Industry
  • Company history
  • Products
  • UVP
  • Mission
  • Philosophy

If they blank when you ask questions relating to company research or can only spout off a few superficial points, it’s a major red flag as this shows that A) they’re just looking for any job they can land, B) they’re lazy, or C) both. 

That’s why I recommend asking a question like, “What can you tell me about my company?,” to gauge their response. 

2. They Have a History of Job Hopping

Job hopping, which is defined as “a pattern of changing companies every year or two on one’s own volition,” is on the rise. While it shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate completely, most sales hiring experts suggest avoiding these reps for the simple fact that they pose a turnover risk. 

To quantify what’s considered a normal amount of time to spend at one job, recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found the average tenure of US employees is 4.3 years as a whole and 2.3 years for younger workers aged 25-34. If a candidate’s resume clearly shows they’re rapidly bouncing from one job to another, they’re probably not someone you want to bring on board.

3. They Don’t Listen

Sales has evolved a lot in recent years, with one of the biggest changes being the way reps go about interacting with leads. In the past, those that were most successful often engaged in aggressive, “salesly” tactics that pushed products on leads. But now, those that thrive tend to assume the role of a trusted advisor. In fact, 88% of leads are only willing to buy when they consider the salesperson to be a trusted advisor — not merely a rep. 

And one of the main ways a salesperson assumes this role is by listening. In fact, there’s a really interesting study by Gong that found the ideal talk-to-listen ratio is 43% to 57%

So, if you’re interviewing a candidate who’s constantly budding in and it physically pains them to listen, it’s probably going to create problems if they’re hired. 

4. They Bash Their Ex-Employers

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest red flags for two main reasons. First, it shows an inherent lack of professionalism and is a poor reflection of character. Even if a candidate suffered some grave injustice at the hands of a previous employer in the past, it’s not something that should be discussed in detail during an interview with another company. 

Second, it can potentially put your brand reputation in peril if you hire a “loose cannon” type of personality. If they’re a person that’s quick to badmouth others, they’re practically guaranteed to create friction at some point down the line. 

So, if you ask something along the lines of “What did you dislike about a previous sales job?,” and a candidate launches into a smear campaign, they’re likely someone to avoid. 

5. They’re Low Energy

Every salesperson has their own style, with some naturally being more outgoing than others. And while being introverted as opposed to extroverted hasn’t been found to lower a rep’s potential (some research actually suggests introverts make better reps), having low energy can definitely be an issue. 

This, after all, can translate into less passion and a general lethargy that can reduce their performance. Just think of a rep who seems perpetually bored trying to convince a lead why they should buy your SaaS product or explain how it will positively impact their business. It’s going to create a roadblock for sure.  

This isn’t to say that a candidate needs to be bouncing off the walls with excitement to succeed. But if they’re obviously low energy, they’re probably not going to be an asset to your sales team. 

6. They Don’t Ask You Any Questions

I recently wrote a blog post that talked about how top performing sales reps ask more questions than their underperforming counterparts. To be exact, top performers ask 11-14 questions per call, while underperformers only ask 1-6. 

Given that asking questions is such an integral part of building rapport with leads and matching them with the right SaaS products, most sales recruiting experts consider a candidate not asking you any questions to be a major red flag. It’s not so much the specific questions they ask. It’s more of simply demonstrating an innate curiosity, which suggests they’ll go further when interacting with leads and close more deals. 

Ensuring You Find the Best of the Best Sales Reps

Sometimes it’s just as important to know what not to look for in a sales candidate as it is to know what to look for. The six points I’ve mentioned here are some of the biggest red flags according to sales recruiting experts and can go a long way in improving the overall quality of your talent pool. 

Find out how HireDNA can help you eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes using the #1 sales candidate assessment.  92% of candidates recommended through HireDNA reach the top of the sales force within one year, and companies that use it lower their turnover by an average of 33%. 

The Science of New SaaS Salesperson Onboarding: Breaking the Process Down Into 4 Key Phases

Having a streamlined, structured onboarding process for new SaaS salespeople can have a dramatic impact on both productivity and retention. To quantify, businesses with effective sales onboarding see a 6.7% improvement in quota attainment and 50% higher new rep retention. 

Not bad! 

But how exactly do you accomplish this? And what are the exact steps you need to take?

That’s what I’m going to discuss in this post. Here’s the science behind new SaaS salesperson onboarding broken down into four key phases. 

Phase 1 – Introduction and Acclimation

One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is overwhelming new reps by bombarding them with information right from the start. You obviously want to get SaaS salespeople up-to-speed quickly, but you don’t want to throw too much at them at once. 

That’s why the first step involves a basic introduction and acclimation phase where you do the following:

  • Make introductions to sales leaders and team members
  • Familiarize them with your company, industry, and mission 
  • Let them know about your philosophy and culture
  • Explain your unique value proposition (UVP)
  • Articulate what differentiates your brand from key competitors
  • Provide reps with training materials like product info, sales scripts, and demo examples

This is also the time to take care of formalities like tax documents, software platform logins, and so on. The main goal here is to reduce the chaos and make it easy for new SaaS salespeople to get their bearings. 

Think of it as letting them dip their toes in the water but not taking a full plunge. Don’t worry about getting into the real nuts and bolts just yet. This will come later. 

Phase 2 – Initial Development

Once a new SaaS salesperson has had some time to digest the materials from phase 1 and get a basic feel for the position, it’s time for phase 2 where you focus on initial development. This largely revolves around providing them with a standardized training program — one that’s uniform among all sales reps. 

“If you expect your team members to meet their goals, you must also give them the knowledge and tools they need to succeed,” explains Michelle Richardson, VP of Sales Performance Research at Brooks Group. “A training program that teaches new sales hires a consistent sales process is a must.”

While the specifics will vary from company to company, some common sales training content objectives include the following:

I personally suggest starting with product knowledge, as this is integral for creating context for new reps and should help them connect the dots as they move into other areas like customer use cases and communication. Teaching them how to give a powerful product demo is especially important because it has such a strong impact on their conversion rate. 

I also recommend reading this previous post I wrote for creating a streamlined checklist for this process. In it, you can get tips for:

  • Creating a single orientation resource
  • Training reps on the software they’ll be selling (and using)
  • Educating them on buyer personas

The goal isn’t for new SaaS salespeople to perfect their skills here. It’s simply to lay down the core foundation so they’ll have the base level of knowledge to sell your products and be in alignment with the rest of your team. Incremental improvements, which I’ll discuss in a minute, will come later on. 

Phase 3 – Ongoing Support

By this point, a SaaS salesperson will have gotten the hang of their initial skills development and have a firm command of the sales process. They should also be adept enough at nurturing leads and delivering demos that they’re comfortably meeting their sales quotas. Once they’ve hit that mark, it’s time for phase 3 of providing ongoing support, which is designed to keep salespeople engaged and refine their skills

This graphic from sales enablement platform MindTickle pinpoints some specific strategies that go into providing ongoing support. 

In particular, I suggest:

  • Competency assessments to determine a rep’s overall level of comprehension
  • Remediation to see which areas could use improvement
  • Metrics reporting for analyzing KPIs

Then, as you unearth information, provide new reps with either one-on-one support or relevant training materials to help them get better. This leads me to the final phase of SaaS salesperson onboarding. 

Phase 4 – Continual Improvement

Phase 4 is about one thing — sales mastery, which serves two main purposes. One is to get the absolute most from each rep. By helping them maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, for example, they should become more productive and consistently reach (if not exceed) quotas. 

The other main purpose is to increase your retention rate. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of salespeople would remain with a company longer if it invested in their career. 

And it’s easy to see why. After all, who wants to stick around in a dead end job where there’s no opportunity for growth and advancement. Following a continuous improvement cycle, which looks like this, is critical for helping reps reach their full potential and motivating them to stay with your company. 

Perfecting Your SaaS Salesperson Onboarding 

Unfortunately, the onboarding process of many SaaS companies merely involves a cobbled together plan that’s barely fleshed out. “While you want salespeople to be resourceful, it’s a mistake to simply throw them into the pool and expect them to swim,” notes Michelle Richardson

By having a clear, repeatable, long-term process in place, you can get new SaaS salespeople up-to-speed quickly without overwhelming them, while ensuring they reach major milestones. The 4 key phases I’ve outlined here should provide you with a tangible game plan so that you get your onboarding down to a science. 

Want to hire better sales talent, faster? Learn how HireDNA can help you recruit elite SaaS salespeople while reducing 96% of hiring mistakes.